Maryland School Spent $4 Million to Figure Out How to Use Grant Money

Adam Andrzejewski | March 14, 2024

(RealClearInvestigations) — Topline: Schools in Maryland have been using grant funding to hire consultants to teach them how to use the grant funding, according to a new report from the state Inspector General.

Key facts: Maryland has sent $649 million in grants to schools in impoverished communities since 2019.

But the state provided little to no direction on how to use the grant money, the IG told WBAL-TV 11 Baltimore.

Maryland’s director of community schools is supposed to provide instructions, but that position was vacant for six months last year. School districts ended up calling a dead phone line for help. Even when the position was filled, school leaders said they received poor advice.

With no direction from the state, schools used grant money to hire private firms that could teach them how to spend their funds. One school signed a five-year, $4.1 million contract for such a purpose. The total amount spent on consultants is unknown.

These costs were reported to state officials, who failed to flag them or raise any concerns.

Maryland prepared instructional PowerPoints and videos for grant recipients, but there is no evidence these materials were actually shared with schools, the IG found. Maryland instead provided “ambiguous” verbal guidance with “little to no written approval.”

There has been little oversight on spending. The first grant audit began in September 2023 and has yet to be completed.

Background: The grants were part of the 2021 Blueprint for Maryland’s Future, one of the most ambitious education initiatives in recent history.

The Blueprint aims to boost education spending by $3.8 billion every year for 10 years, with a large portion going toward pay raises for teachers.

The plan uses state and local money, but counties are already struggling to contribute their portion of funds.

But if counties are worried about funding, perhaps they should address salaries at Baltimore County Community College.

OpenTheBooks recently found that BCCC President Debra L. McCurdy has been paid $1.5 million since 2019.

McCurdy earned $593,000 in 2022 including incentives. That’s almost as much as President Joe Biden and the mayor of Baltimore combined.

Summary: Schools are supposed to be spending grant funds to educate their students, not their own staff.

This article was originally published by RealClearInvestigations and made available via RealClearWire.